In his judgment (I Doncaster v Coventry City Council), Mr. C Jones, Chairman, Coventry Appeal Tribunal, categorically disagreed with the DWP view, saying, "rent is in arrears once the contractual date for payment has passed irrespective of whether rent is due in advance or in arrears."
This decision, which neither sets a legal precedent nor is binding on future decisions, may, in the meantime, however be used by landlords in a similar position to Mr Doncaster when negotiating with local authorities over LHA rent arrears.
Richard Price, Director of Operations, NLA, said: "It is quite clear that the normal rules of renting should apply to Local Housing Allowance. According to most tenancy agreements, rent is payable in advance.
"Yet local authorities pay their Housing Benefit claimants in arrears. Therefore, when it comes to assessing the length of rent areas, there is a significant difference in approach between councils and landlords. The aim of the LHA was to put those tenants in receipt of Housing Benefit on a level-playing field to those in the open market. The fact that rent is paid in arrears puts them at a major disadvantage.
"This decision is good news for landlords and, although not binding, those who are experiencing similar problems should consider highlighting this decision to their local authority."
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